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In Employee Email, Apple CEO Tim Cook Calls For Commission On Interaction Of Technology And Intelligence Gathering

Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim Cook (TechCrunch.com)

Early this morning, Apple CEO Tim Cook sent an email out to employees about the FBI’s request to unlock an iPhone with the subject line ‘Thank you for your support’. The email outlines some responses to Cook’s open letter last week and paints the issue of Apple’s refusal to cooperate as one of civil liberties.

In the email, Cook calls for the FBI order to be dropped, and outlines some arguments.

“This case is about much more than a single phone or a single investigation, so when we received the government’s order we knew we had to speak out. At stake is the data security of hundreds of millions of law-abiding people, and setting a dangerous precedent that threatens everyone’s civil liberties,“ says Cook in the email.

Cook says that some advocates of the government’s order, which we have covered in detail here, want it to “roll back” data protections to the point at which they were as of iOS 7. In iPhones running older versions of iOS, Apple was able to extract information from devices even though they were locked with a personal pin code. Apple has never unlocked devices for the government, a common misconception among some media covering this ongoing story.

The most recent development in the case came over the weekend, when the FBI admitted that it had hastily reset the Apple ID password of terrorist Syed Farook’s iPhone 5c, removing the possibility that it could connect to Apple’s servers and perform a fresh iCloud backup. That backup would have provided the FBI with additional data that it is now attempting to get from the device itself by forcing Apple to crack its passcode. Though changing the password amounts to destruction of an avenue of investigation, the FBI argues that it needs more information than a backup could provide, a statement disputed by a senior Apple engineer.